An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle Dated 1761 or 1821 (the bottle 1740–1821)
Lot 61
An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle Dated 1761 or 1821 (the bottle 1740–1821)
Sold for HK$ 312,000 (US$ 40,234) inc. premium

Lot Details
An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle Dated 1761 or 1821 (the bottle 1740–1821) An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle Dated 1761 or 1821 (the bottle 1740–1821)
An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle
Dated 1761 or 1821 (the bottle 1740–1821)
7.7cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 1, no. 145

    白玉銘詩句鼻煙壺
    壺:1740~1821
    刻文: 1761 或 1821

    An inscribed white nephrite pebble-material snuff bottle

    ('The Prunus-Friend's "Remote and Tranquil Heart"')

    Nephrite of pebble material; extremely well hollowed, with a slightly irregular, concave foot surrounded by a narrow, flat footrim; incised on one side in regular script with a famous line of Tang poetry, preceded by the seal, in seal script, ziran ('natural') and followed in regular script by the signature Youmei zhuren ('The master who befriends prunus blossoms') and the seal [?] nian ('[?] year'), and on the other with a seal, Xinqing miaoxiang jian ('Purify the heart among subtle fragrances') followed in clerical script by 'Engraved at the Hall of Remote Tranquility (Jingyuan tang) in the fourth month of the year xinsi'
    Bottle: 1740–1821
    Inscriptions: 1761 or 1821
    Height: 7.7 cm
    Mouth: 0.51 cm
    Stopper: carnelian, carved as a twig or stalk; gilt-metal collar

    Condition: Original material: a series of natural flaws running down the lower area of one narrow side, beneath the foot, and all the way up the other narrow side; carefully aligned by the artist to minimise the impact on the main sides. Usual wear slightly smoothing the more prominent, lower seal after the line of verse. General relative condition: excellent

    Provenance:
    Sotheby's, London, 6 May 1986, lot 300

    Published:
    Kleiner 1987, no. 55
    Treasury 1, no. 145

    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    Commentary
    The bottle has a small foot that allows it to stand upright as an alternative position to resting comfortably in the hand, where most pebble bottles are at their best. Although superbly hollowed and softly polished, the main appeal of this bottle lies in its inscriptions. They are fluently carved with considerable calligraphic confidence and with the use of various scripts. The literate nature of the inscriptions suggests the hand of a scholar practised, through seal carving, in working on jade. It is, of course, quite possible for a well-trained lapidary with an excellent eye to copy a precise model and maintain the literacy of the original, but it is equally possible that the incising here was done by Youmei zhuren himself. This is what prompts us to raise the question as to whether the bottle must necessarily date from the same period as the inscription, which was assumed when it was previously published. There are plenty of plain nephrite bottles known, and many of pebble-form, so it would have been easy for a scholar to acquire one and to decide to add poetic inscriptions, scholarly seals, and sayings together with his signature, hall-name, and a date to enhance his joy in the bottle or its qualities as a gift.

    The quotation is from Jinse ('The Patterned Lute'), the most famous single poem by ninth-century poet Li Shangyin (circa 813-858), who was also known, perhaps not coincidentally in the case of this bottle, as the 'Scholar of the Jade Stream' (Yuxi sheng).
    The line reads:

    At Indigo Fields, in the warmth of the sun, jade engenders mist.

    Lantian ('Indigo fields'), on a stream about 35km from modern Xi'an, was perhaps the earliest site in China where 'jade' was gathered, and Lantian jade is found frequently in Chinese literature as the epitome of beautiful jade. (By the Ming dynasty, some writers had noticed that there was no nephrite in the area and suspected that Lantian jade was a myth; however, more recent research has suggested that the greenish serpentine marble that is present at Lantian can be considered a kind of jade. See Zhou 1988).

    Traditionally, the saying Lantian shengyu ('Lantian produces jade') meant that a good family produces fine sons. Whether it was the artist's intention to evoke that expression is hard to say. The line in the original poem suggests memories (of a love affair) that dissolve like smoke when one tries to re-experience them.

    The seal on the other side refers to the refinement of the self (purifying the heart) through delving into esoteric matters (among subtle fragrances). The small seal that says 'natural' or 'naturally' has multiple levels of meaning appropriate to the pebble-material, the choice of inscriptions and their scripts, and the manner in which they are done.

    Despite both the hao (assumed artistic name) and the hall-name given here, we have been unable to associate the inscriptions with any known literatus. There are a number of figures from the Qing dynasty who adopted the name Youmei in various forms, but none who can be definitely associated with the inscriber of this bottle.

    卵石料銘詩句鼻煙壺

    卵石料; 掏膛非常徹底,凹底,圈足底完全接觸地面; 一正面刻"藍田日暖玉生煙",引首為"自然"篆印,後加"友梅主人" 一楷款和不清楚的"年"[?]篆印,另一正面刻"心清妙香間"篆印,後加"辛巳清和刻於淨遠堂"
    壺:1740–1821
    刻文:1761 或 1821
    高:7.7 厘米
    口經: 0.51 厘米
    蓋: 紅白玉髓,雕枝或蕾, 鎏金金屬座

    狀態敘述:質料:兩側面 有一群的天然瑕疵,對兩正面沒有任何影響;一般性的磨損使題句後的印章有所磨平。一般性的相對 狀態:極善

    來源:
    Sotheby's, London, 6 May 1986, 拍賣品號 300

    文獻:
    Kleiner 1987, 編號 55
    Treasury 1, 編號 145

    展覽:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

    說明
    本壺最引人注目的是其題字運用了不同書體和優秀的筆法。這讓我們想想,是不是友梅人刻的字?是不是舊的煙壺刻新的題字?待考。

    藍田玉歷來有名,雖然到了明代有人意識到那個地區根本不產閃玉。但藍田玉並不一定是沒有根據的神話。

    離西安不遠的藍田所產的地方玉材歷來很有名,但到了明代已經有人問,藍田怎麼看不到閃玉呢,這麼名貴的玉,為甚麼不過偶有記載?現在有人說,藍田玉就是一種蛇紋石化大理石。參閱周南泉 1988。

    清代用"友梅"這個別號的人為數不少,"友梅主人" 指誰,待考。

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